While Novak Djokovic may be happier with the proposed arrangements for the US Open, now that he can take his team with him to New York if he rents a house close to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, many players feel organisers are not being fair to all.
So on the ATP Tour Zoom call the other week it was made clear to us the reason for the US Open qualifying and half of the main draw doubles being cut were due to numbers and safety reasons for COVID. Hence only one team member were allowed to come onsite. Now we find out that players can now bring three team members onsite. Since when did a players entourage take priority over an actual player, playing for their livelihood? Andrew Harris
“I’m very glad to see in the news that the ATP calendar and US Open series it’s going to happen this year and the comeback of international tennis,” Djokovic told Eurosport. “I think it is a fantastic news that the Tour is coming back.
“I think that a lot of people were sceptical, especially for the US events considering what the US went through as a country during this pandemic, compared to Europe that maybe got out of the pick of the pandemic earlier.
“It is very important that we provide opportunities. We provide jobs. We provide opportunities for players who compete, because in the end of the day this is what we do!
“As tennis professional we love the sport, we are passionate about it. We miss competing and traveling and in the end of the day we miss being on tour.
“So, I think this is a very positive news.”
Lesser players, however, believe they have been sidelined, because there is no qualifying, the men’s and women’s doubles draws are reduced from 64 to 32 teams, and the mixed doubles and wheelchair events dropped.
Australian World No 204 Andrew Harris has blasted organisers on Twitter: “So on the ATP Tour Zoom call the other week it was made clear to us the reason for the US Open qualifying and half of the main draw doubles being cut were due to numbers and safety reasons for COVID.
“Hence only one team member were allowed to come onsite.
“Now we find out that players can now bring three team members onsite. Since when did a players entourage take priority over an actual player, playing for their livelihood?
“The gap at the top gets bigger. This can’t be happening.
“You also claimed that canceling qualifying and half of doubles was due to Cincy being played in New York.
“Then how is Washington going ahead? That defeats the purpose of the whole bubble thing you were proposing in New York.
“Why not play Cincy in Cincy?”
Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann, formerly ranked 99, joined in the fray, adding that lower-ranked players need help now more than top players.
“Professionals who can survive Corona better with their income anyway will be given another advantage,” Hanfmann told tennis MAGAZIN. “It makes me think that the USTA absolutely wants to pull through the US Open.
“I understand that, but it is at the expense of the players beyond the 128th place.
“Especially after the pandemic they wanted to secure better. A bit absurd.”
The situation for players ranked outside the world’s Top 100 could be even tougher when the ATP and WTA tours resume, prompting Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski to also weigh in on the US Open’s changes.
“Not having qualifying and a smaller doubles draw increase the lack of parity in tennis. We don’t want to disproportionally move the needle even further, creating a bigger gap between those at the top and those who need the income and opportunity for growth,” Dabrowski said.
Valeria Savinykh, ranked No 127 in doubles, will surely lose any chance of competing in this year’s US Open.
“It’s complete nonsense,” Savinykh told tennis.com.“They don’t have any tournaments for us to play.
“Only like 150 people will be playing and the rest of the tour will not. Ninety percent of the tour won’t have the chance to compete in the tournaments.
“It’s like they only want the Top 100 to play and the rest of us to stay at home.”
The USTA will provide $6.6 million to the ATP and WTA Tours for players who will not get to compete in the US Open because of the restrictions, but how these funds will be allocated has yet to be determined.
Ryan Harrison chimed in with a different stance: “Tennis is a business, and the ATP tour supports the challenger tour financially.
“The US Open largely contributes to all of the financial backing of the US Challengers.
“Without the US Open there would likely be no Cincy or Washington, and a massive hit on US challengers for years ahead.”
Djokovic feels the regulations around the US Open and ATP Tour are quite strict but necessary because of the pandemic.
“With quarantine and with some players, especially the ones from South America, not being able to travel out of their countries to come to the states because they have until 1 September and a no departure rule,” he said.
“Like in Argentina, for an example, but also for other neighbouring countries such as in North America. Hopefully that will change, the ATP and the USTA, everyone is working on it.
“The worst-case scenario is that it remains like this but there is time.
“I think we have two months until we have the first tournament. It will be Washington/Cincinnati Masters [in New York] and then the US Open.
“Hopefully every single player who is participating, chosen by ranking and who deserves their place at the US Open, will have equal opportunity to travel there and compete as everybody else does.
“This is very, very important because this is the foundation of the ATP and the Foundation of international tennis.
“I am sure that the ATP and the USTA are doing their best to make sure that first of all, first and for most, the health of the players is taken care of. The safety also and everything else.
“I think that they would not announce the return of the Tour on the US hard court, and also on clay in Europe, if we are not sure that players are safe and able to compete in these conditions.
“Let’s hope that in the next two months some of those restrictions will loosen up a bit and that we will have a great, great tournament.”
Perhaps Jon Wertheim said it best in the US on Wednesday’s edition of Tennis Channel Live: “We’re in a new world here, we’re going to have imperfections and we’re going to have injustices. It’s a fluid situation and we might be in a very different place in 60 days.”